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Date of
1 August 2006 ZWN 1 000 ZWD
1 August 2008 ZWR 1010 ZWN
= 1013 ZWD
2 February 2009 ZWL 1012 ZWR
= 1022 ZWN
= 1025 ZWD

In economics, hyperinflation occurs when a country experiences very high and usually accelerating rates of inflation, rapidly eroding the real value of the local currency, and causing the population to minimize their holdings of local money. The population normally switches to holding relatively stable foreign currencies. Under such conditions, the general price level within an economy increases rapidly as the official currency quickly loses real value. The value of economic items remains relatively stable in terms of foreign currencies.

Unlike low inflation, where the process of rising prices is protracted and not generally noticeable except by studying past market prices, hyperinflation sees a rapid and continuing increase in nominal prices, the nominal cost of goods, and in the supply of money. Typically, however, the general price level rises even more rapidly than the money supply as people try ridding themselves of the devaluing currency as quickly as possible. As this scenario happens, the real stock of money (i.e., the amount of circulating money divided by the price level) decreases.

Hyperinflations are usually caused by large persistent government deficits financed primarily by money creation (rather than taxation or borrowing). As such, hyperinflation is often associated with wars, their aftermath, sociopolitical upheavals, or other crises that make it difficult for the government to tax the population. A sharp decrease in real tax revenue coupled with a strong need to maintain the status quo, together with an inability or unwillingness to borrow, can lead a country into hyperinflation.

In 1956, Phillip Cagan wrote The Monetary Dynamics of Hyperinflation, the book often regarded as the first serious study of hyperinflation and its effects (though The Economics of Inflation by C. Bresciani-Turroni on the German hyperinflation was published in Italian in 1931). In his book, Cagan defined a hyperinflationary episode as starting in the month that the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50%, and as ending when the monthly inflation rate drops below 50% and stays that way for at least a year. Economists usually follow Cagan’s description that hyperinflation occurs when the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50%.